2 Jackson State University ROTC graduates join officer ranks of U.S. Air Force as 2nd lieutenants

(JACKSON, Miss.) — Two former Air Force ROTC cadet leaders who distinguished themselves academically and honorably during training were recently promoted to second lieutenants during a commissioning ceremony recently at Jackson State University.

Newly commissioned 2nd Lt. Jalen McIntyre is congratulated by his father. (JSU Photo by Aron Smith/JSU)

As commander of Detachment 006, Lt. Col. Natosha Reed administered the oath of office to 2nd Lt. Jalen McIntyre, an industrial technology major from Illinois, and 2nd Lt. Deja Rayford, a pre-med/biology major from Arkansas.

Reed, also a professor of military science, expressed pleasure for having been their commander for the past year in the College of Science, Engineering and Technology. “I have seen firsthand how your hard work, your sacrifice and your dedication have propelled you to this moment.”

Crediting her staff and other constituents, she added, “I’m really appreciative of the teamwork because we didn’t get here by ourselves – not just the people here at Jackson State that I work with from day to day but a lot of those family members who showed up today. Those are the people who really instilled those values.”

Col. Shamekia N. Toliver is the commander of the 322nd Training Squadron, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland AFB. As keynote speaker for the commissioning, she told honorees, “Our nation needs you. We need your leadership, your skills and expertise.” (Photo by Aron Smith/JSU)

The keynote speaker was Col. Shamekia N. Toliver, who currently serves as the commander of the 322nd Training Squadron, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland AFB. With 27 years of service, the bronze-star recipient now commands 6,500 trainees per year.

Toliver said COVID-19 has made us “think outside of the box about how to continue to fight through. In this room we are celebrating safely with masks on our faces and socially distanced. We have folks joining us virtually – all in an effort so that we can safely support our new commissioning.”

She expressed gratitude to the honorees’ families because “you have entrusted us with our nation’s treasures – your son and your daughter. Your support has pushed these cadets to successfully complete reserve officer training and commission in the world’s greatest air and space force.”

After earning her gold bar, 2nd Lt. Rayford, left, is honored by her aunt. (Photo by Aron Smith/JSU)

Toliver stated firmly, “Today is your day. You stand here different in almost every aspect of your life,” she told McIntyre and Rayford, both of whom had served as Mister and Miss Air Force ROTC in 2019; as cadet wing commanders; and received numerous other honors and memberships.

Toliver added, “You now understand values like integrity, service, excellence, character and respect. These are warrior ethos that will boldly serve you for the rest of your life. The uniform you now wear earns you the respect and admiration by virtue of your new status: United States officers.”

She said, “You have volunteered for service in a time of conflict with full knowledge that your country may call upon you to deploy to dangerous locations around the globe. Our nation needs you. We need your leadership, your skills and expertise.”

She described their commissioning as a “tremendous milestone” leading to their careers.

“As your new wingman, I salute you. This path of service that you have chosen will transform you into the leaders necessary to sustain the United States as the greatest nation in the world. This path is a noble one with less than 1 percent of the entire American population raising their hands to serve in our military.”

Furthermore, Toliver praised them for “enduring COVID-19 challenges; historical acts of Mother Nature – with power outages, water outages and a myriad of other challenges you’ve faced. Yet, you have remained flexible, and you have persevered.”

She then explained their new rank as a lieutenant.

“That single gold bar that you’re going to proudly wear is the insignia bestowed to newly commissioned officers. This is a symbol of trust and leadership at the most practical level.

“As a lieutenant, you will supervise the best airmen and guardians the world has ever known. Selection to serve in the rank of lieutenant is a privilege that only few are chosen for. Don’t take it lightly and remain dedicated to the oath of office that you will commit to,” she advised.

Toliver also urged the new officers to stand firm on the principles to support and defend the Constitution against foreign and domestic enemies. “Continue to polish your leadership skills and adapt to the needs of America’s sons and daughters who answer our nation’s call. I want you to uphold the sense of pride the Old Glory proudly displays.”

Toliver reminded them that their success would ensure that the nation’s air and space force remain “second to none. We have a secret weapon in our military. It isn’t the B-21 nor the F-35. It is the ultimate weapon – you, the American airman. You are trained lethal warriors of character.”